The podcast presenters show off their awardPodcast presenters L-R: Guy Barter, Jenny Bowden and Tony Dickerson

As the dreary month of November drew to a close, we were absolutely delighted to receive some brilliant news - the RHS members' gardening podcast was once more a finalist in the Garden Media Guild Radio Broadcast of the year award!

Alas in 2017 we weren't able to replicate 2016's win (hearty congratulations to Marian Foster of BBC Newcastle). Last year's winning submission for the award came in the form of four selected episodes, which you can hear below, whether or not you're an RHS member.

How it's made

Every week or two, RHS gardening advisors and scientists, often with colleagues from the garden staff, gather at mid-morning, in a little room next the RHS Gardening Advice office in the Wisley Laboratory building with some refreshments to keep us going. Very importantly one or two podcast experts from our podcasting contractors, Pixiu, do the actual recording. 

Because the advice office is so close there can be some noise as the remaining advisors are busy answering phone calls which you may hear in the background of our podcasts – we think this adds authenticity although it if it gets too much we ask them to keep it down. They are very supportive.

After these essential preliminaries, we start working on the question-and-answer part of the script sent to us the day before. The script is expertly compiled by our partners at Pixiu and by our web team in Peterborough. Although we aim to be excellent horticulturists, we lay no claims to being broadcasters. However, learning from our Pixiu friends has vastly increased our understanding and expertise of broadcasting and podcasting - which is rewarding of itself and also helps us express ourselves to best effect in this medium.

Listen to the winning 2016 episodes
Summer special
Willdlife special
Chelsea designers' secrets
John Massey's hellebores

You say tomato...

Tony Dickerson in action at the advice kiosk

It is in fact rather like our everyday advisory work – a question is asked and we all chip in with our different perspectives based on our interpretation of the question and our individual experience and field of expertise.

Sometimes we disagree and this is a chance to explore the topic from different directions. There are no books or screens to interrupt the flow, having previously prepared our thoughts on the questions, it is all from notes and memory.

Occasionally our colleagues from the science team and the gardens look a little nervous, but happily the advice team know them well and can help them add their unique insight and expertise to the discussion. They claim they find the experience enjoyable, and this may well be so as they keep coming back.

We allow a couple of hours, but time rushes by. It is stimulating work because the script is so interesting, and because just as in real life we improvise and adapt the dialogue as we go, and thanks to the skilled editing by Pixiu the lively to and fro of interested experts exploring subjects close the their heart is, I think, captured. Afterwards you always dwell on whether you could have added more or expressed it better, but in truth if it was not up to scratch the team from Pixiu would have made us do it again.

Finally we take it in turns to read the introductions, credits, closing and RHS information. With so many people to choose from we can add different voices to make the podcasts varied. And with that we all breathe a huge sigh, partly relief and partly regret, and go off for lunch in the Wisley staff canteen before returning the advisory ‘front line’ answering emails, letters, phone calls and speaking to visiting RHS members in the Wisley Plant Centre.


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